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Wausau Pilot & Review

As we prepare for the dawn of 2022, the staff at Wausau Pilot and Review took its annual look at all the ways in which the past year shaped our lives, our news coverage, and even our newsroom. For us – and for so many of you – 2021 has been a year of unprecedented challenges and change.

Looking back at 2021, Wausau Pilot and Review published more than 6,000 stories. Most were written by people in our newsroom. But we also rounded out coverage with stories from the Associated Press, Courthouse News, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Kaiser Health News, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Madison365 and other well-respected newsrooms publishing stories with huge impact for our readers. We added local high school sports coverage and local business reporting, and added additional reporting for county-wide issues, rather than focusing solely on Wausau. We look forward to expanding our coverage further, with your support, in 2022.

Here are the stories you read most in 2021:

Notably, all but one of the top stories this year were locally produced – by journalists in your community who are supported by your subscriptions, memberships and sponsorships.

Looking at the list, most of the stories landing at the top are investigative pieces or stories exposing wrongdoing. But there was some good news, too.

Our favorite story of the year came from children.

For the second year in a row, we featured “Letters to Santa,” an opportunity for children to share their wish lists with us. Before sending their letters to the North Pole, we collected them for publication. Their heartwarming notes, wishes for their parents and loved ones, made the struggles of 2021 somehow all worthwhile. This is a tradition we’ll continue for years to come.

Business of the Week highlights local business owners and their aspirations

Our Business of the Week feature highlighted the stories of locally-owned and operated restaurants, hardware stores, dental clinics and more, offering a glimpse into the hopes and dreams of the business owners in our communities. They continue to inspire us. And Ciao, a downtown Wausau Italian restaurant owned by Adam Jamgochian, took top honors as our Business of the Year.

All in all, it’s been a great year

We had much to celebrate in 2021. Our tiny neswroom earned four awards at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s annual conference, including two first-place finishes. Our publisher, Shereen Siewert, was named a YWCA Woman of Vision for 2021. And in November, we were one of three finalists for Publisher of the Year, a national award bestowed by the Local Independent Online Newspaper Publishers (LION) organization. We were also a finalist in two additional LION Award categories: General Excellence and Best Solutions Journalism Project.

In March, we hired a new account executive to better manage our advertising partners and sponsors. Through Christina Kimball’s expertise, we brought more than 50 new advertisers on board and launched our popular “Business of the Week” feature, along with quarterly, informal happy hour events for members. (Our next one is in January at Mosinee Brewing Company.) Christina played an enormous role in our sustainability in 2021 and we are looking forward to enriching existing relationships and developing new ones in 2022.

The portion of our funding that comes from readers increased too. We more than tripled the size of our newsletter subscriber list, added an afternoon update and weekly event roundup. We also launched a fantastic new event calendar and can proudly say we have the Wausau area’s most comprehensive listing of events – from meetings to festivals to farmers markets, live music and more – in the Wausau area, hands down. Our donor base tripled. We landed a spot as a Report for America newsroom for 2022, which pays half the salary of a new, full-time reporter, who will come on board in June.

Our audience has grown substantially, too. Our stories were read more than 12 million times in 2021, a significant increase over 2020. That’s great news for our sponsors and advertising partners, many of whom joined us this year. Learn more about opportunities for 2022 by emailing us here.

All in all, it’s been a year of growth. We’re incredibly grateful to you, our readers, for your support and we can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Here’s to a much better and happier 2022. Cheers to each and every one of you.